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Wall of Voodoo
Wall of Voodoo
|Origin||Los Angeles, California, United States|
|Genres||New wave, post-punk, alternative rock, dark wave|
|Years active||1977–1989, 2006|
|Associated acts||The Skulls, Nervous Gender, Eye Protection|
|Past members||Stan Ridgway|
Chas T. Gray
The band's genesis was in a Hollywood company called "Acme Soundtracks", a commercially unsuccessful venture founded in 1977 in Hollywood by songwriter Stan Ridgway. Ridgway's intent for the company was to provide soundtrack music for independently produced low-budget horror films; unfortunately, they found few takers for their services. Instead, Acme Soundtracks evolved into a band that played live shows, as Ridgway (vocals, harmonica, keyboards) enlisted Marc Moreland (guitar) followed by Marc's brother Bruce Moreland (bass), Chas T. Gray (keyboards), and Joe Nanini (percussion) to the line-up.
The band was named Wall Of Voodoo by Ridgway before their first gig in reference to a comment made while recording and overdubbing a Kalamazoo Rhythm Ace drum machine, a gift to Ridgway by writer and iconic voice over artist Daws Butler, partner to Stan Freberg, voice of Yogi Bear and many other Hanna-Barbera characters. When someone jokingly compared the multiple drum machine and farfisa organ laden recordings to Phil Spector's Wall Of Sound, Ridgway commented it sounded more like a "Wall Of Voodoo", and the name stuck.
Actually, for new listeners, the voodoo reference was a little misleading, as it referred to the music's often spooky quality, as opposed to any Haitian or Caribbean influences. In fact, WoV's music could fairly have been described as a cross between early synthesizer pop (especially that of Devo) and Ennio Morricone's spaghetti western soundtracks. Adding to the music's distinctiveness was Ridgway's unusual vocal style, a half-spoken western drawl, and Nanini's percussive experimentation, mixing drum machines with found instruments such as pots, pans and various kitchen utensils, as well as Marc Moreland's distinctive guitar.
In 1980, Wall Of Voodoo released their self-titled debut EP, which included a cover version of Johnny Cash's Ring of Fire, as well as three original songs and a few snippets of atmospheric Acme Soundtracks work. In 1981 the band released Dark Continent, an album concerned largely with workplace issues.
After that album, bassist Bruce Moreland exited the band, and Gray doubled up on both bass and keyboards. Now a quartet, in 1982 WoV recorded their best-known album with producer Richard Mazda, Call of the West, which included "Mexican Radio". Though "Mexican Radio" did not make the top 40 in either the US or the UK, it was a sizeable underground hit, and the song's video received heavy airplay on MTV in the US and MuchMusic in Canada.
Wall Of Voodoo added Bill Noland from L.A.'s quirky outfit Human Hands as a keyboardist in 1982, but increasing tensions within the band eventually led to a breakup of the band after the Us Festival in 1983. Ridgway would there after embark on a solo career, which netted him much critical acclaim and a top 5 hit in the UK with the 1986 single "Camouflage" in addition to songs such as "The Big Heat","Drive She Said" and "Salesman". Numerous solo recordings have followed.
Noland and Nanini also left the band in 1983. WoV regrouped in 1984 with a new lead singer (Andy Prieboy), as well as a new drummer (Ned Leukhardt) and returning bassist Bruce Moreland.
Second and Third albums
A 1984 single ("Big City") was followed by two albums from this lineup: 1985's Seven Days in Sammystown, and 1987's Happy Planet. The Sammystown album also spawned "Far Side Of Crazy", a minor hit single in Australia.
Bruce Moreland again exited the band before their final album in 1989, the live recording The Ugly Americans In Australia.
After the final break-up, Andy Prieboy issued three solo albums :"Upon My Wicked Son", "Montezuma Was A Man of Faith" and "Sins of The Father." "Wicked Son" featured the haunting ballad "Tomorrow Wendy" which was covered by a score of bands, most notably Concrete Blonde on their hit "Bloodletting" album.
Stan Ridgway continues to release numerous recordings and projects, including collaborations with his wife, composer Pietra Wexstun of the electronic lounge band Hecate's Angels. These include "Soundtrack for Blood" (2003), a musical score to an exhibit of paintings by the surrealist artist Mark Ryden, and "Barbecue Babylon", the latest album by Drywall, their "experimental noise combo trio" with electric guitarist Rick King.
Ridgway's most recent solo cd is "Snakebite - Blacktop Ballads and Fugitive Songs" (2005) which featured the amazing song Talkin' Wall Of Voodoo Blues.
A newly reformed Wall Of Voodoo recently opened for Cyndi Lauper at the 2006 Pacific Amphitheatre Summer Concert Series at the OC Fair.
The line up consisted of Stan Ridgway - vocals, harmonica, farfisa organ, compass, polygraph, and new members Joe Berardi - percussion, drums, foley, laugh box, gong, atomic clock, Rick King - guitar, twang wire, tremolo tonic, bees vs moths, maps, Pietra Wexstun - keys, electric piano, C3 organ, tarot cards, mind reading, Jeff Boynton - keys, moog, oberheim, circuit bending and soldering iron, David Sutton - bass, thunder stick, vitalis, casuals, and golf balls, Richard Mazda - Special Guest, guitar, clavinet, SFX, points of discussion, producer-dude of Call Of The West and Mexican Radio, and other strange things. Andy Prieboy, Chas T Gray and Bill Noland were approached to participate but declined. All sent their well wishes and may contribute in the future.